"Sunshine Days"


"I'm sorry I asked not to get killed in the finale!"

Here we are, one episode away from the huge series finale, and what are we getting? On the surface of things, an episode revolving around the “Brady Bunch” is just about the last thing that we would expect or even accept. But perhaps in the most emblematic fashion possible, the “X-Files” gives us an episode that serves as an appropriate ending to the season, and in many ways, the series.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the most talented writer still working on the series, Vince Gilligan, is the man responsible for this episode. Not only did Vince write the episode, he directed as well. Vince has been the most dependable of the writers during the past four years, even if he has exposed his own weaknesses from time to time. But rather than give us another Shiban disaster or another Carter “satire”, Gilligan is allowed to give us an emotional resolution to the characters that we have followed the past few years.

After a man is killed, thrown onto the roof of a car under mysterious circumstances, Doggett and Reyes look into the circumstances of the crime. Considering that this has happened in Van Nyus, California, everything they do is televised. When the one apparent witness claims that the interior of the house is identical to the Brady residence from the famous television show, the case takes a very strange turn.

A search of the house reveals nothing remotely Brady, but there is evidence that the roof has been patched quite recently, matching the materials embedded in the victim’s skull. While the agents investigate the suspect, Oliver Martin, the witness breaks into the house the following night. He is also killed under similar circumstances.

It soon becomes known that Mr. Martin is actually someone very different. As his former doctor reveals, he was once a boy with staggering psychokinetic powers, able to move objects and reorder reality with but a thought. Doggett and Reyes check out the house, and Doggett notices that the interior of the house does indeed look like the Brady house. Confronting Oliver, he soon finds himself standing on the roof.

The doctor persuades Oliver (who has named himself after the reviled Cousin Oliver) to release Doggett, after which the agents are treated to a demonstration of just how powerful Oliver is. Along with Scully, the doctor convinces Oliver that he ought to go to Washington and help the agents deliver proof that the paranormal exists. They take him to Skinner, and even he is convinced that proof has finally been realized.

Of course, it soon becomes obvious that Oliver is not a healthy man. It would appear that using his power has been slowly killing him, but he cannot bring himself to stop. Beyond destroying the dream to show all naysayers that the X-Files are valid, there is Oliver’s life to consider. It’s not long before it dawns on the agents, and the doctor, that Oliver has been unconsciously creating this fantasy world because he is desperately lonely. He literally has no one to connect with. Recognizing that the “Brady Bunch” theme is an unconscious choice because it was something he and Oliver once bonded over, the doctor pledges to care for Oliver.

Scully is depressed that the proof has fallen through their fingers again, that she is unable to validate Mulder’s work and legacy...but she recognizes that perhaps she has found proof of what’s really important, the connection between souls. Doggett and Monica agree, knowing that their personal peace (and mutual friendship) has been the real validation of their work.

With the “resolution” of the larger issues of the series mythology being wrapped up or otherwise addressed in the series finale next episode, it is fitting that the emotions underlying the series be dealt with in this episode. For all of the bizarre and threatening unknowns, for all the threatening conspiracies, what has mattered more than anything are the relationships forged within the maelstrom.

Despite referring to Mulder as she does it, Scully has completed her journey from hardened skeptic to reasoned believer. Her ability to speak on Mulder’s behalf shows that instead of half-hearted trying to be him, like she was early last season, she can now anticipate Mulder’s theorizing on her own.

Doggett has also made a personal journey, though clearly not to the extent that Scully has. He began as a complete skeptic, only able to accept the unexplained when he has deduced it on his own, and only then marginally. In this episode (probably in response to last episode’s supposed “release”), he accepts what the evidence is telling him without pre-judgment. The evidence is what it is, and indicates what it indicates. He has begun to accept the strange world that his experiences have revealed, and perhaps, might eventually learn to use the gifts that he has denied for so long.

We don’t get a sense of where Monica has grown in this episode, but considering how short a time she has been on the series, perhaps we shouldn’t have expected much. At most, her character has been trying to get past Doggett’s walls since she worked on the case of his son’s murder. Certainly, the first few episodes in which she appeared last season had her pushing for him to open up. She has been revealing her feelings for Doggett all season long, and while he has silently acknowledged that he knows, he’s not hiding anymore. The final scene suggests that he might be open to a relationship with her, and while it may not be much, at least it’s something.

It’s certainly more than Skinner receives, if this episode is also meant to be his character’s final statement. He demonstrates a certain joy in the possibility that the X-Files can finally be validated, but what exactly is that supposed to mean for him? I would think that his interest in having the X-Files vindicated involves the recent consequences of the mythology. Namely, if the X-Files are given credence, they can no longer be used to keep agents in line or safely contained. Their claims against the conspirators become more credible, and at the same time, his prospects of a future career are revitalized. If Skinner feels trapped in his current position, the elimination of Follmer followed by proof of the paranormal ought to have been more than enough to make his day.

But given that Skinner has always had his biggest moments within the confines of the mythology, there is hope that his character will be given more appropriate closure in the series finale. My fear is that the resolution we find revealed here for Doggett and Reyes, and in part for Scully and Skinner, stands to leave the finale solely for a resolution to all of the aspects of Mulder’s journey. As much as I want to see that, as an enduring fan of Mulder over the years, I also want to see Skinner get his moment. The character deserves it.

Another aspect of this episode sets up the analogy between Oliver Martin and his obsession with the “Brady Bunch”, and fandom’s obsession with the “X-Files”. It’s a little disappointing to see 1013 dipping into this well again, considering how many times they’ve given the fans a knowing wink, but at least Vince Gilligan does it with a bit of class. As much as fans might protest, they are often obsessed. The wealth of fanfic, fandom’s version of the fantasy world Oliver created around him, attests to that fact.

As a self-described obsessed fan and fanfic writer, not to mention someone who writes these long and often overly serious reviews, do I take offense from this? Hell, no. Because I also understand what the relationship between Oliver and the doctor is meant to represent. We may be obsessed fans, living within a daily fantasy world, but we share that world with others...and those bonds, in so many cases, have led to something far more enduring than this fantasy world will ever be. Real friendships have grown out of the shared appreciation of the X-Files, and I can personally attest to that. No matter how long we hold on to the “X-Files”, there’s the promise that we’ll hold onto those friends even longer.

And with the end of the “X-Files” coming with just one final episode to go, this fantasy world is coming to a kind of end. Soon, barring more films or unlikely spinoffs, reruns and memories are all we will have. We will continue, and we will have to find lives beyond the week to week anticipation. Some of us, perhaps many of us, will write our fanfic and discuss old episodes, keeping the memories fresh. Others will move on to the next obsession. Some will even do both!

But in the end, there is a life beyond the “X-Files”, both for us and for the characters within that universe. For all that this episode ultimately didn’t do much to advance or resolve nine years of highs and lows, it did bring home the fact that we are nearly at the end, and it did so in a way that left me with a sense of peace. And sometimes, that’s all that we really need to find, when as fans we agree on little else.

Some other thoughts:

- Oh, great...Bud Bundy...

- Nice use of the “Brady Bunch” theme in the teaser music!

- Loved Doggett’s fearful glance at Monica when she started going on about the Bradys!

- “...explain the ha-has...”

- Good idea, Scully...touch the scalpel that’s moving by itself!

- I suppose there were eventually some reasons for the constant references to what Mulder would think, but really, enough already! We’ll see him in a week!

- “What in the holy freakin’ hell is this, man?”

- Did Doggett get those lockpicks from Mulder?

- “Oliver, you up there...down there...whatever the hell...”

- One of the best things about this episode? The expression on Skinner’s face!

- Oh, and it was good to see that gorgeous grin on Scully’s face one more time. It’s been hidden behind tears too often lately.

- Nice to see that Scully’s utter lack of basic medical knowledge remains intact. Doesn’t she know better than to restrain someone having a seizure?

Overall, this was a pleasant yet bittersweet episode, one that leaves the characters in relative peace. It is the first time that we get a glimpse of what the writers are thinking as the series comes to a close. Now all that’s left is the mythology, which I can only hope will end on a similarly pleasant note.

I give it a 7/10.

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